By Jason Powell, Prowrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Smackdown Live Hits
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Baron Corbin: A good outing for both men. The match built nicely to what seemed to be headed toward a clean win for Nakamura only to have Randy Orton put him down with an RKO out of nowhere. Corbin also ate an RKO, but he was spared taking a clean loss heading into the Royal Rumble. It’s worth noting that this isn’t the first time that Orton has blindsided Nakamura. He also hit him with an RKO on Smackdown heading into a singles match between the two. Will it become an issue or will this one also be forgotten in the storylines as they chalk it up to Orton being the Viper and/or sending the message that it’s every man for himself in the Royal Rumble match? Here’s hoping that this is going somewhere. Orton’s RKO’s out of nowhere always get a good reaction, but Nakamura will look like a dope if he simply takes the move again and then goes on to team with Orton as if nothing ever happened.
Chad Gable vs. Jey Uso: A good match with the right finish in that one of the challengers pinned one of the champions heading into the best of three falls tag match at the pay-per-view. I completely agree with Jake Barnett, who noted in his Smackdown Live Review that Gable and Shelton Benjamin are still lacking character development.
Bobby Roode, Kofi Kingston, and Xavier Woods vs. Jinder Mahal, Rusev, and Aiden English: Harmless time filler. It’s surprising and disappointing that WWE doesn’t appear to have a real plan for Mahal now that his title reign is over. It’s also sad to see Roode stuck in this one note gimmick even if he does hold the devalued U.S. Championship.
WWE Smackdown Live Misses
AJ Styles, Kevin Owens, and Sami Zayn feud: Yep, nope, co-champions, Kami, Daniel Bryan’s strange decisions, Shane McMahon’s weekly reactions… None of it has really clicked with me even though I typically enjoy the work of everyone involved in the program and the heel mic work of Owens and Zayn has been strong. One of the issues is that booking Owens and Zayn to challenge Styles in a handicap match defines both men down in that it feels like WWE has to put them together because this is the only way viewers would see them as threats to beat Styles for the WWE Championship. And the sad part is that they cemented that with Styles plowing through Owens with ease. Granted, Owens has been off the weekend house shows with an injury, but this still sent the wrong message. Zayn won the match, but it changed nothing given that it was the second Styles match and Owens was providing the distraction. Both challengers could be built up as credible threats to the championship and instead they’ve been reduced to handicap match silliness.
Naomi vs. Liv Morgan: The weekly meaningless match involving a member of Riott Squad facing either Naomi, Charlotte, or Becky Lynch. They threw in the obligatory brawl to set the stage for the women’s Royal Rumble match, but it failed to pack a real punch in that it wasn’t anything most fans were thinking about once the show concluded.
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